Charges against four pro-Palestinian activists who protested inside a Woolworths store in Cavendish Square was dropped in the Wynberg Magistrates Court on Monday. Four picketers from the Action Forum for Palestine (AFFP) were arrested on Saturday by the store’s security personel and later detained at the Claremont police station on charges of intimidation, trespassing and contravention of a court order.
Two of the four that were arrested were released on condition on Sunday following a night vigil by members of the public, while the two others were kept until their court appearance on Monday morning. However the pair did not appear and the charges against all four were dropped due to insufficient evidence.
“We got a lot of the support from the public. People stayed at the night vigil until the early hours of the morning in solidarity with the four people that were arrested,” said AFFP chairperson Wafaa Aburahman.
The National Coalition 4 Palestine chairperson Reverend Edwin Arrison said from reports received, Woolworths called the police to arrest the activists, “falsely accusing” the activists of being members of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions South Africa (BDS SA) and of being in contempt of a recent BDS SA court order.
Following recent talks between BDS SA and Woolworths, the lobby group agreed to soften its boycott campaign and to refrain from in-store protest actions. The court order, however, does not extend to other organisations and individuals which are not a part of BDS SA.
The AFFP has vowed to take action against police and the retailer, saying their members were not only “wrongfully arrested” but also manhandled. While the group was detained at the store, they were allegedly ill-treated and could not use the bathroom.
Abdurahman said they are still in discussions with their lawyer but will be “taking the matter further”.
A widescale boycott campaign was launched by BDS SA in August following the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip and has been supported by a number of solidarity organisations. Activists have been consistently picketing at stores countrywide, to apply pressure on Woolworths to stop trading with Israel. VOC (Imogen Vollenhoven)